Authors: Sinead Moriarty
After I’d tucked him in, I went to wake the two sleeping beauties.
‘Whassat?’ said Derek, as I shook him.
‘What the hell happened here tonight?’ I asked. ‘The place is a state and the boys aren’t even in their pyjamas. Why are you in your underwear?’
‘Kate,’ said Derek, ‘you have no idea what we’ve been through. Those two little dudes are too much. We tried to give them a bath but they soaked us. Tell her, Gonzo,’ he said, as his bandmate woke up and rubbed sleep out of his eyes.
‘Total nightmare. I’m so never having kids. I’m wiped out.’
‘Welcome to my world,’ I said, smiling.
‘How does Fiona do this everyday?’ wondered Derek.
‘What about me? I’ve been doing it for months,’ I said, put out that he wasn’t acknowledging my hard work.
‘Yeah, but it’s only temporary. She’s a lifer,’ he said. ‘Man, you’d need some serious speed to get you through parenthood.’
‘What did you give them for dinner?’ I asked.
‘What? It shut them up for a whole ten minutes. It was worth it. I ordered the one with peppers on it so they’d get, like, some vegetable intake.’
‘Judging by the kitchen, the peppers didn’t go down too well. Come on, get up and help me clean up the mess. Fiona’s home tomorrow and the place is a dump.’
‘I’m too tired, Kate, I need some chill-out time.’
‘Get off your lazy arse now,’ I scolded, and pulled him off the bed.
‘I’ll help you,’ said Gonzo, rubbing his puny white body against me. ‘Do you want to start by helping me get dressed?’ he whispered, blowing stale drink and pizza fumes up my nose.
I pushed him away. ‘Seriously, Gonzo, you have to get laid soon. It’s not healthy.’
‘But it’s you I want,’ he said, winking at me. ‘I’m prepared to wait for perfection.’
‘It’s never going to happen. So unless you want it to fall off from lack of activity, you need to look elsewhere,’ I said.
‘Some day, Princess, you’ll regret spurning me.’ He sighed as he put on his damp trousers.
‘Don’t hold your breath,’ I retorted. ‘No, actually, for the time being, do. It stinks.’
After blitzing the house, I let the two musicians go home and sat down to have a celebratory drink alone. I ached to dissect my exciting day with someone. I called Tara, but her phone was switched off. I didn’t want to try Fiona because she was probably sleeping, and Dad thought my job was pointless, and Sam clearly didn’t want to hear from me. I sighed and snuggled into the couch, replaying the day in my head.
Two glasses of wine and a lot of self-praise later my phone rang. It was Sam.
‘Hi,’ I said, trying not to sound absolutely thrilled to hear from him.
‘Hey, there, I wanted to tell you how great you were today.’
‘You were brilliant.’
I basked in the praise. ‘God, Sam, it felt so good to be working again. I’m still on a high. Thanks again for putting Peter in touch with me. I owe you.’
‘Well, actually I’ve a favour to ask you.’
‘Are you free next Friday?’
‘Uhm, I think so,’ I said, forcing myself not to scream
‘I have this sports-awards dinner thing and I need someone to come with me, so if you’re at a loose end and you fancy a free meal…’ He tailed off.
‘What about your girlfriend?’
‘Funny. No, we decided that it wasn’t going anywhere.’
‘Sorry to hear that,’ I said, whooping silently.
‘To be honest she was wearing me out.’
Jesus, I didn’t want to hear this. I had no desire to listen to tales of his seven-hour sex marathons. I said nothing.
‘She wanted to go clubbing every night. I’m too old. I can’t dance to the music, I don’t like blue drinks with umbrellas in them and the last time I checked, 50 Cent was currency, which apparently makes me a sad old git.’
I giggled. ‘Serves you right for thinking you could keep up with a teenager.’
‘She was twenty-one.’
‘Practically a granny.’
‘Well, myshort-lived stint as a sugar-daddy is well and trulyover.’
‘Come on, you’re not at the pipe-and-slippers stage yet.’
‘Sounds good to me. By the way, who is 50 Cent?’
‘Probably the biggest star in the music industry at the moment.’
Sam groaned. ‘Oh, God, I
a sad git.’
‘What was the last concert you went to?’
‘Simple Minds in 1985.’
‘There’s no hope for you.’
‘Will you take pity on an old man and come to the awards with me?’
‘It might be bad for my street cred.’
‘You owe me for today, remember?’
‘I can be.’
‘What the hell?’
‘You looked sensational today.’
Before I could think of anything to say he’d hung up. The smile on my face would have melted ice.
Fiona came out of hospital the next day, looking much better. The twins were thrilled to see her.
‘Let’s go out for tea tonight,’ she suggested.
‘Great idea. Where do you want to go?’ I said, presuming she’d choose the Green Olive health-food restaurant.
‘TGI Friday’s,’ she said.
The twins and I were flabbergasted.
‘Really?’ said Bobby.
‘Yes, pet,’ she said, kissing him. ‘You’ve been such good boys and I’m so proud of you that I think you deserve a proper treat. So, TGI Friday’s it is.’
I smiled at her as the twins jumped up and down. This was a big step for Fiona: she had never before allowed the boys to eat non-organic food.
‘You can have anything on the menu except nachos. They’re just too awful,’ she said.
‘OK,’ said the boys.
‘Oh, and those greasy potato skins are out too, and I’m not sure about –’
‘Fiona!’ I interrupted. ‘Don’t ruin it.’
I could see she was on the verge of telling me about the nasty additives to be found in non-organic foods, but when she looked at the boys’ disappointed faces, she stopped herself. ‘Kate’s right. You can have anything you want. Just this once.’
‘Hurrah,’ said Jack, and hurried to put on his coat before his mother changed her mind again.
We were having a lovely time, eating greasy food and laughing at the twins’ excitement, when Fiona’s phone rang. ‘Oh, no… Oh, God… How awful, poor you… All that hard work… Never mind, it’s still an amazing achievement… Sorry… See you in a few days… Don’t be too hard on yourself…’Bye.’ She hung up, looking miserable.
‘What’s up?’ I asked
‘Mark came third. He didn’t win the prize or the money. He sounded gutted.’
Typical, I thought. Just when Fiona was relaxing and enjoying herself for the first time in months, he’d had to ruin it.
‘Third’s pretty good, though, isn’t it?’ I said, trying to be positive.
‘Absolutely, but for him it’s the same as coming last. It was all or nothing for Mark. Poor thing, he’s devastated. All that work…’ She fished about for a hanky to wipe her tears before the twins – who were running around, high as kites on additives – noticed.
‘Come on, Fiona, it’s not the end of the world. He did really well to be second runner-up in a worldwide competition. He’ll be fine in a few days.’
‘I don’t know, Kate. He really thought he was going to win. Mark’s very ambitious. This is a big knock-back for him. He said the dean was disappointed too. Oh, God, it’s such a pity, I was praying he’d win.’
Jesus, I thought. You should be saving your prayers for yourself. Praying that the cancer will go away and you live to see your kids grow up. What the hell was she wasting good prayers on Mark’s poxy competition for?
‘Fiona,’ I said sternly, ‘forget about Mark. Your priority is to get better. Stressing about your husband’s career is not helping you. The doctor said that stress can aggravate the cancer. You have to focus on yourself and your health.’
‘I’m sick of being sick.’ She sighed. ‘It’s a relief to focus on something else.’
‘Fine, focus on something positive, then, like how well the boys are coping and how their personalities are developing in such a fantastic way. Look at how cute and clever they are, and how mature they’ve been in handling your sickness.’
Fiona looked at me and grinned. ‘Careful, Kate, you almost sound besotted. They’ve worked their magic on you.’
I felt embarrassed, I don’t know why, but it had been strange admitting how wonderful I thought the boys were. Maybe it was because they weren’t mine. They’d always belong to Fiona and Mark, and I was just temporary. They’d never love me the way they adored their mother. Was I getting too involved? As if he had read my thoughts, Bobby fell over and banged his head on a chair. He started to bawl and came running over for comfort. Instinctively both Fiona and I opened our arms to comfort him. He ran by me into his mother’s arms.
It was the day of my date with Sam and I was trying on my outfit for Fiona. I had eaten nothing but milkshakes for four days so I could fit into my killer red dress with the plunging back. It hadn’t been hard to starve myself as I was so jittery with nerves that I could barely sit still. I couldn’t wait to see Sam again and I was determined to look the best I possibly could.
Fiona was saying all the right things and I felt really good about myself. I went to put my wig on to show her the finished product, but I couldn’t find it where I had left it, hanging on the coat rack out of reach of little hands.
Then I heard giggling from the bathroom. When I went in to see what was going on, I found the twins and Teddy in a tug-of-war. Teddy had my wig in his mouth as the twins, squealing with laughter, tried to pull it out. Chunks of long brown hair were strewn about the floor.
‘He thinks it’s another dog,’ said Jack, giggling, as I stared in horror at my silky hair.
‘Look,’ said Bobby, and put Fiona’s wig over his hand. He shook it in Teddy’s face, making barking sounds. Teddy dropped mine and attacked Fiona’s.
‘Oh, boys!’ said Fiona, pushing past my paralysed body to rescue the wigs.
She held mine up and stared at the big bald patch on the left-hand side. The right side was merely drowned in dog dribble.
‘You know these aren’t for playing with,’ Fiona said, in an attempt to reason with the twins. ‘Mummy and Auntie Kate need them until their hair grows back. It’s naughty to let Teddy bite them.’
She glanced at me and shook my wig, then tried to brush some strands from right to left. ‘Maybe we could put a bow on it to hide this bit.’
I couldn’t believe it. My big night was ruined. ‘Thanks a lot, boys,’ I said. I turned on my heels and stormed out.
‘Come on, Kate,’ Fiona called after me, ‘they didn’t mean it. It was an accident.’
‘Fiona, the wig is fucked, as is my bloody date,’ I said.
I cried the whole way home. How could I go to a black-tie ball with clumpy, fuzzy hair. I needed that wig. I felt naked without it. I’d have to call Sam and cancel. There was no way I was going to turn up looking like a dog, while all the other stunning women with sleek, shiny cascading hair swished about.
I slammed the front door and threw myself on the couch for a self-indulgent sob.
‘Jesus, you nearly took that door off its hinges,’ Dad said, coming in to see what was going on.
‘Stupid boys… wig… ruined… disaster… Not going… Uglypig.’
‘Well, I’ve no idea what you’re mumbling, but Fiona called and said there’d been an incident with a wig and you were upset. I take it you’ve no hair for tonight, which I can see is not ideal. But we can sort it out. Come on, Katie, stop crying – you’ll ruin your dress.’
I looked down. I had forgotten I was still in the red dress, which was now covered in tears. I began to howl again.
‘Kate!’ Dad snapped. ‘Feeling sorry for yourself won’t help and you don’t want to be going out with a big red face on you and puffyeyes. Now, dryup and let’s see what we can do about this hair situation.’
‘There’s nothing to do!’ I shouted. ‘You can’t fix it – and I’m not going out looking like a freak! I have to call Sam and cancel.’ I reached into my bag to fish out my phone.
But Dad was too quick for me: he grabbed it and tucked it into his pocket. ‘Stop being such a bloody drama queen. There must be something you can do with a bit of hairspray or a scarf or something. Sheryl might have a hat you could borrow.’
is the last person in the world I want to see right now,’ I roared. ‘The only fashion she knows anything about is tracksuits.’
‘Shush, will you? She’s on her way over. After Fiona called I rang her,’ said Dad, as the doorbell sounded.
In came Sheryl, looking annoyed. She must have heard me slagging off her clothes – although as I’d spent eight years in school seeing her in a tracksuit every day, it hadn’t been that insulting. Even now she was wearing jeans with runners and a zip-up sports top. The woman couldn’t help it: she loved sporty clothes. Which was fine, but I was going to a black-tie dinner and I didn’t fancy wearing a baseball cap.
Sheryl placed a bag of hats and scarves on the couch beside me and turning to Dad said, ‘I’ll talk to you later, Bill. I can see you have your hands full here.’
‘Ah, don’t mind Kate. She’s just emotional,’ said Dad, following her out while I riffled through the bag. The scarves all had sporty themes – a bright yellow one was covered with horses and horseshoes, a green one with tennis players and rackets, and a red one with golfers and golf balls. They would have looked good on the Queen. The hats were worse – a big black felt one that looked like a spaceship, a cream boater and a purple thing that resembled a swimming-cap, covered with flowers.
Having spent ten minutes trying to placate Sheryl in the hall, Dad came back in. ‘She wouldn’t stay. Very upset she is,’ he said, wagging a finger at me. ‘Said she couldn’t come into such a hostile environment. She said she’d collect her things tomorrow. These are all her favourites and not a tracksuit among them. You can apologize to her when you’ve calmed down.’